Alberta starts new ad campaign for troubled Trans Mountain pipeline

The Alberta government is launching a new multimedia campaign to court political favour for the troubled Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. 

Sonya Savage says $1.6M being spent on 'yes to TMX' in Ottawa alone

Energy Minister Sonya Savage stands in front of a billboard vehicle showing a campaign the Alberta government is undertaking Wednesday May 29, 2019, in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Alberta government is launching a new multimedia advertising campaign to court political favour for the troubled Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. 

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage announced the "yes to TMX" campaign at a news conference in Ottawa Wednesday morning. 

She said the campaign is designed to garner approval for the proposed expansion and promote its economic benefits outside of Alberta. 

"We need to approve the pipeline without hesitation. Full stop," Savage said in front of a large truck emblazoned with  messages promoting the pipeline.

"Our campaign will reinforce this message across the country. It's time for a firm decision on Trans Mountain pipeline. It's time for a 'yes'." 

Energy Minister Sonya Savage speaks in front of a billboard vehicle showing a campaign the Alberta government is undertaking Wednesday May 29, 2019, in Ottawa. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)

'We can't take any chances'

The campaign will be active in the Ottawa area through at least June 18, when the federal government is expected to deliver its decision regarding the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. 

Savage said $1.6 million is being spent on the campaign in Ottawa alone. She did not say how much would be spent nationally but suggested there would be smaller targeted campaigns launched in other communities. 

She said investment in Canada's energy sector is "drying up" and any additional delays would have dire economic consequences across the country. 

While the federal government has signalled its support for Trans Mountain, Alberta "can't take anything for granted," Savage said. 

"We can't take any chances," Savage said.

"We're optimistic and we're hopeful that the government won't delay, but if there is any delay, we could lose an entire construction season and that's going to have an unbelievable detrimental impact to Alberta." 

The federal government is expected to deliver a final decision on the fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline by June 18, well beyond the 90-day deadline set by the National Energy Board.

After a period of uncertainty last summer, the National Energy Board endorsed the project on Feb. 22, giving Ottawa a 90-day period to make a final call.

That set May 22 as the original deadline to either approve the taxpayer-owned project or kill it outright.

The Liberal government, which purchased the project for $4.5 billion, hit a roadblock last summer when the federal court quashed its initial cabinet approval of the expanded pipeline.

It forced Ottawa to start over on Indigenous consultation and marine-related environmental assessment.

The NEB was ordered to reassess the pipeline expansion, including the impact of increased oil tanker traffic.

In its February endorsement, the NEB made 16 new recommendations designed to better protect marine life on the B.C. coast, where the line ends.

The government has also launched renewed consultations with Indigenous groups.

During the Alberta provincial election, Premier Jason Kenney campaigned on standing up to Ottawa to ensure new pipelines are built and reinvigorating the energy sector following a steep downturn.

Savage said she will also use her time in Ottawa to speak with senators and condemn two federal bills, C-48 and C-69.

The proposed bills, which would ban oil tanker traffic on the B.C. north coast and revamp the regulatory approval process for major energy projects, respectively, pose a real threat to Alberta, Savage said. 

Alberta is asking the senate to kill Bill C-48 and approve all 187 proposed amendments to Bill C-69, Savage said.

"Part of the reason why we won such a strong mandate in the provincial election is because investors have been pulling out of Alberta because of government regulation," she said. 

"So we're improving that, we're sending a strong signal that we're open for business and we want that business to come back."